Drought sparks water cuts in Southern California

Unprecedented water restrictions imposed on parts of Southern California this week have highlighted how rapidly the state’s water supplies are being reduced by drought and climate change.

The order to limit outdoor watering to just one day a week will go into effect June 1 in drought-stricken areas dependent on the State Water Supply Project. The plan was approved by Metropolitan Water County in Southern California on Tuesday and will affect 6 million people.

“These areas depend on an extremely limited supply from Northern California, and there is not enough supply to meet the usual demand in these areas for a long time,” said Adel Hagekhalil, superintendent of the school district. the rest of the year.

He and other water officials called the situation urgent.

“We are seeing conditions unlike anything we have seen before,” he said. “We need a serious reduction in demand.”

Where will we stand with drought?

The California drought, now in its third year, has become the driest on record and is increasing due to hotter temperatures caused by climate change. With the state’s major reservoirs running low, MWD has run out of water in parts of Southern California.

The late-season snowfall and humidity that covered Northern California in April helped create a small crack in drought conditions, experts say, but much of the state remains much lower than that, experts say. required level as it moves towards the dry hot side. summer months. The latest US Drought Monitoring update, released Thursday, shows that more than 95% of California is in severe or extreme drought, up from about 66% three months ago. While April storms aren’t unusual in Northern California, the dryness that preceded them this year was this: The Sacramento area saw a 66-day dry spell that lasted until May March 15 – longest dry spell ever recorded in winter.

How much water does California conserve?

Figures released in early April by the State Water Control Commission show that even in the third year of drought, Californians have been slow to step up conservation efforts. Total water use in California’s cities and towns fell by just half a percent in February compared with the same month of 2020, a far cry from Governor Gavin Newsom’s goal of reducing water use in the city by 15 percent. town.

Newsom urged Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use last July. But the state’s cumulative water savings from July through February stood at 5.8 percent year-on-year in 2020. In February, the San Francisco Bay Area decreased its water use by 4.6 percent, in while the South Coast region of Southern California – 55%. the state’s population – uses less than 0.2% of its water. In other parts of the state, people use more water than they did in February 2020. In the Sacramento River region, water use increased 6.7%. And in the inland desert, the Colorado River region in Southern California, residents used 3.2 percent more water.

How much can California save?

Researchers recently calculated in a new study that the state could reduce water use by more than 30% in cities and suburbs by investing in more efficient water use practices. Research by the Pacific Institute, a water research organization in Oakland, also shows great untapped potential for urban areas in reducing over-used rivers and aquifers. water storage by investing in local projects to recycle more wastewater and capture more rainwater. While the researchers determined that large amounts of water could be saved statewide, they say the greatest potential lies in Southern California in reducing indoor and outdoor water use, reusing wastewater treated and collect more runoff when it rains.

What do we know about the new restrictions?

A large swath of Southern California will be restricted to outdoor watering to just one day a week. Additionally, local water providers must find other ways to cut usage and meet the new monthly allocation limit, or face fines.

Areas that are heavily or completely dependent on the State Water Project include counties northwest of LA and Ventura, parts of the San Gabriel Valley, and parts of the Inland Empire. MWD imports water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, which serves 26 public water agencies across six counties, supplying 19 million people, about half the state’s population.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

(Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District)

District officials wrote that these measures are intended to conserve water supplies and “ensure that short-term human health and safety needs can be met.”

What about trees?

There were some concerns expressed during the MWD meeting about the health of the trees amid limited watering.

Peter Kraut, a member of Calabasas City Council, said: “I am appalled that a drastic change like this is happening in such a short time. “This plan not only resulted in brown grass but also killed countless trees. The damage to our environment will take decades to repair. Bidders will spend millions of dollars removing dead trees and planting new ones. ”

Others echoed concerns about the trees, saying that as water restrictions go into effect, it will be important for local agencies and residents to have information on how to get grass to brown in the water. while keeping the tree alive.

Tracy Quinn, MWD board member representing Los Angeles, said she hopes the district can make the information available to member agencies and customers, as Las Vegas has done, “to make sure that the tree Our mortars are protected.”

Times staff writer Hayley Smith contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-04-27/drought-sparks-water-cuts-in-southern-california Drought sparks water cuts in Southern California

Edmund DeMarche

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